Officer fired for ties to biker gang sues Capitol Police for discrimination

The Capitol Police Department is facing a discrimination lawsuit after it dismissed one of its officers due to his affiliation with an allegedly racially charged motorcycle gang with ties to the Hells Angels.

On April 20, former Lt. Gregory Turner filed suit against the Capitol Police in D.C. District Court, as well as current and former members of the Capitol Police Board including police chief Phillip Morse, Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer and former House Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood.

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Turner alleges he faced age and race discrimination, as well as denial of due process and violations of freedom of speech and association, when he was suspended and later dismissed for his affiliation with the Southern Maryland Tribes Motorcycle Club (TMC).

A TMC member since 1998, Turner claims the Capitol Police never challenged his participation with the group until the Federal Bureau of Investigation took notice in 2007 as part of their own investigation into alleged criminal activity against Turner and two other Capitol Police employees. The FBI never filed charges.

Turner describes TMC as a “responsible, civic-minded organization that affects positive change in the local community,” according to the filing. But the U.S. Secret Service viewed the gang quite differently in the lead up to the 2008 presidential inauguration.

The FBI surveillance data of Turner and another Capitol Police officer within TMC caused concern for the Secret Service as they prepared for the inauguration, according to news reports.

Officials asked that Turner and his colleague not cover the Capitol as President Obama took his oath of office. When the Capitol Police failed to take immediate action, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan involved then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who reportedly threatened to take the matter to members of Congress.

In March 2009, the Washington Post quoted a senior federal official close to the situation as saying that the swearing-in of the nation's first black president was not a time to take chances.

In his filing, Turner alleges that he was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General. The OIG subsequently concluded that Turner’s involvement with TMC — which it called a “domestic group with white supremacist views” — amounted to conduct unbecoming, improper associations and outside employment, and his employment was terminated.

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Turner also took the opportunity to air some of the department’s dirty laundry. In bolstering his claim that younger employees were given preferential treatment, Turner mentioned a 2010 incident in which a Capitol Police officer allegedly brandished a firearm and spewed racial epithets at a family while intoxicated. The officer was later charged with felony reckless endangerment and assault, but was only suspended from duty for 40 hours, according to the complaint.

Turner cited a second incident involving an officer who reportedly discharged a firearm in his house, accidentally shooting a taxi-driver, then one year later breaking into a woman’s home while under the influence. He was later returned to active duty following a 30-day suspension, the claim alleges.

Turner also claims his race — Caucasian — was a motivating factor in his termination after the Black Capitol Police Association “pressured” the department to take action against him due to his alleged involvement with white supremacists. In the department’s attempt to demonstrate “equal treatment,” they meted out “unreasonably harsh discipline to one of those white” employees, he asserts.

The Capitol Police allegedly failed to take comparable action against African-American employees, Turner continued, citing the mere suspension of an officer for looking at pornography while on duty and the failure to terminate an officer after he was caught “in the company of a transvestite prostitute, who managed to relieve him of his agency-issued firearm.”

Turner maintains that the Capitol Police failed to provide him the opportunity to respond to the charges of misconduct prior to his dismissal, and violated his right to free speech as well as freedom of association.

The terminated officer seeks the reversal of the Capitol Police decision and asks to be restored back to his former position, as well as awarded all back pay and benefits. Turner is also seeking up to $300,000 in compensatory damages.

A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police declined to respond to questions regarding the lawsuit, citing the department’s ongoing policy to not comment on pending litigation.